I remember the first time I heard of “birddogging,” which was brought up by a friend my sophomore year of high school.  At the time, I didn’t understand the significance of birddogging — asking strategic questions to important political leaders — or how living in New Hampshire would give me very unique access to presidential candidates as they campaigned the first in the nation state.

Now, it is January, and the primary is just over two weeks away.  We’ve been going at candidates since early summer, asking them questions, from the basic “do you believe in climate change,” to more specific ones, such as asking if they’d support a Department of Justice investigation on Exxon.  

As a youth voter in New Hampshire, or anywhere, I believe it’s our responsibility to shift the political dialogue to one which reflects our interests and concerns.  For me, that’s climate change.

What happens when we demand that politicians address climate change? We’re also asking that they address a number of systematic issues which have flown under the public’s radar, until now.  For example, how campaign contributions from companies and individuals affect their policies, or how climate change disproportionately affects people of low income, particularly in developing countries.

Take Ted Cruz, who vehemently denies climate change (his campaign has received $709,493 from the fossil fuel industry).  By birddogging him, and getting his dodged responses to the mainstream media, we can show the public that there’s a reason behind his climate denial.  

This past week, after countless responses saying that the ice caps were getting bigger, and the planet hadn’t warmed in 18 years, my friend Griffin and I decided that sometimes asking questions isn’t enough.  We wanted to confront his climate denial with the facts, in a more attention grabbing way.  We made a banner depicting Cruz balancing on the last iceberg, with a sack of money being handed to him from “big oil.”  By doing this, we’re conveying our message in a way that candidates and voters can’t ignore, and we hold everyone accountable.

At the end of the day, climate change affects us all, but I think it’s also important to realize that we also contribute to it in one way or another.  And because of that,  I believe it’s our responsibility to make sure we’re coming up with solutions.  We have the opportunity to be completely involved in affecting the outcome of our future.  Why aren’t we taking it?

Abby Colby is a student at the University of New Hampshire, and has been doing volunteer work with 350 Action for the primary election.